Oregon Cities

Group sues Oregon Secretary of State Griffin-Valade to keep Trump off ballot

Donald Trump

The national advocacy group trying to block former President Donald Trump from appearing on primary ballots filed a lawsuit with the Oregon Supreme Court on behalf of five Oregon voters on Wednesday.

Former President Donald Trump attends the Trump Organization civil fraud trial in New York State Supreme Court Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in New York.

Former President Donald Trump attends the Trump Organization civil fraud trial in New York State Supreme Court Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in New York.

Mike Segar / AP

The legal complaint comes less than a week after Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade announced she wouldn’t keep Trump’s name off primary ballots under advice from the state Department of Justice, who told her she lacks the authority to determine whether presidential primary candidates are qualified.

Attorneys for Free Speech for People, who filed the state lawsuit, disagree. They’re seeking an order from the state Supreme Court requiring Griffin-Valade to disqualify Trump from the primary and general election ballot, or, alternatively, an order directing Griffin-Valade to demonstrate why she shouldn’t be required to disqualify him.

The group maintains that Trump is ineligible to run for election because of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states that no one who previously took an oath to uphold the Constitution and then  “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof” can hold office.

Trump’s behavior in late 2020 and early 2021, including attempts to overturn election results and encouraging the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters as Congress tried to certify electoral votes, qualify as insurrection, according to the lawsuit.

“Multiple judges and government officials have determined that January 6 was an insurrection and that Trump is responsible,” it said. “Meanwhile, Trump has subsequently acknowledged that he was in command of the insurrectionists, remains unrepentant, and would do it again.”

Free Speech for People has already filed court challenges in Minnesota and Michigan and plans to file challenges in more states, legal director Ron Fein told the Capital Chronicle.

“As soon as Trump is disqualified by any state Supreme Court, we expect that he would try to appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which may have a final word, but in the meantime, we intend to continue filing challenges because he is not only constitutionally disqualified but personifies the reasons that the insurrectionists disqualification clause was adopted into the Constitution,” Fein said.

The group maintains Griffin-Valade has the responsibility to vet candidates for office, as she did when she disqualified four Republican state senators who had missed more than 10 floor sessions and as former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan did when she blocked New York Times columnist Nick Kristof from running for governor two years ago when he didn’t meet residency requirements.

“Oregon law leaves the secretary no neutral position,” the complaint said. “No other Oregon official is required to ‘diligently seek out any evidence of violation of any election law’ and remove an ineligible candidate’s name from the ballot.

Griffin-Valade spokeswoman Laura Kerns said in an email that the secretary stands by her decision but will follow any direction from the court.

“The Secretary believes that she made the right decision to rely on the advice of DOJ regarding the presidential primary election,” Kerns wrote.

The state solicitor general advised Griffin-Valade in a publicly released letter last week that she didn’t have the same responsibility to vet presidential primary candidates because those elections operate differently than other elections. Instead of electing a candidate to office or even choosing a candidate as the party’s nominee, primary voters provide directions for how delegates should vote at a national nominating convention.

The Justice Department previously advised secretaries of state that they didn’t have the authority to determine whether 1968 presidential candidate George Romney, who was born to American parents in Mexico, met the requirement to be a “natural born citizen, ” or whether former President Dwight Eisenhower could be removed from 1952 primary ballots when he wasn’t registered with the Republican Party.

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501(c)(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and X.


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